In the continuous process improvement world, we consistently here about the need to listen to the voice of the customer when trying to resolve organizational problems. The problem is that this approach is primarily retroactive in nature.

According to Wikipedia, Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used in business to describe the in-depth process of capturing customer's expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.

In a problem resolution mode, we are asking the customer to help us understand from their perspective how we can resolve the pressing quality issues faster, better and cheaper. The design for growth model created by Jeanne Liedtka suggests that in resolving problems we need to look at what is or what the problem is, what if or the world without the problem, What wows or potential solutions and what works or the final solution. This is all well and good if we are trying to resolve an issue. But what about the rest of the operation?

There can be another side which is more proactive and that is to use the VOC concept to allow our stakeholders to have a say in the planning of future innovation and products by helping us understand what would make their lives easier. Not from the view of problem resolution but rather what is on their wish list. What could we introduce as a new product or service which would improve their daily work life? We can use the same steps as above but with some modification.

The response to what is can now be not what is the current state but rather what would make your life easier.  What if could be a response to how would the new product or service make your life easier. The remainder of the steps can be us going back to the stakeholders and offering them potential products or services in response to their wishes.

Voice of the Customer need not be totally negative. Voice of the customer need not be a tool used only when we have a problem. Clients don’t hire you because you are balanced. They hire you because you are extraordinary in some way. Use that capability to create dynamite solutions to make your stakeholders lives run more efficiently, less expensive and with limited need for rework and you will be a success.

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